Debt Collectors Will Be Able to Contact You on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or via Text Messages
A new rule from the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will allow debt collectors to contact people by email, SMS text messages, and social media apps. That means debt collectors, known for their unscrupulous practices can use WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to hound you for money. This is in addition to calling you and sending bills in the mail.
The catch is that although phone calls have limitations the use of messaging apps does not.
“A debt collector is presumed to violate federal law if the debt collector places telephone calls to a particular person in connection with the collection of a particular debt more than seven times within seven consecutive days or within seven consecutive days of having had a telephone conversation about the debt, says the US Government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
That means one debt collector can call you every day.
However, the new rule does not limit the number or frequency of messages the debt collector can send. The new CFPB rule permits multiple phone calls a week and unlimited electronic and social media communications from debt collectors
The new rule also does not require that debt collectors verify that debt is actually owed by a consumer or is still legally valid. Debt collection is a multi-billion-dollar industry with over 8,000 debt collection firms operating in the United States.
“Debt collectors are notorious for hounding consumers and filing lawsuits about debts that have already been paid off or were never owed in the first place,” said Suzanne Martindale, from Consumer Reports. “The CFPB’s new rule does nothing about this egregious practice, and fails to ensure that debt collectors can prove that money is actually owed and they have the legal right to pursue the debt.”
That means a debt collector could be contacting you for a debt that you don’t actually owe. You may be the victim of a cybercrime like identity theft. It’s possible someone got a hold of your birthdate and government ID in a data breach or from a tranche of data sold on the dark web and racked up debt using your name. It’s also possible that it’s an actual error. A debt collector might mistake you for someone with the same name.
The CFPB rule was finalized on October 30 but does not go into effect until October 30, 2021.
“Our rule also gives consumers the option to unsubscribe from receiving text messages and emails from debt collectors or otherwise limit ways debt collectors contact them,” says US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Kathleen L. Kraninger.
“The rule requires debt collectors who communicate electronically to offer the consumer a reasonable and simple method to opt out of such communications at a specific email address or telephone number. The rule also provides that consumers may, if the debt collector communicates through a medium of electronic communications, use that medium of electronic communications to place a cease communication request or notify the debt collector that they refuse to pay the debt”